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our · drashel, bin there's a horse-shoe nailed athin it."
“ Aw Madge, shouldn'wonner ; and now you do talk o't, I should like a pwint o' yale, vor the zun be whot, and tha pilm do vlee zo in tha ruad, it ha' made me adrowthy."
Even the economical Madge had no objection to the refreshment mentioned; and they accordingly betook themselves to a public house at Goathurst, that they might rest and recruit before they set off on their return.
Edith would not unnecessarily hurt the feelings of the Sheltons by mentioning what had just occurred. She sate some little time in the library with father Bartholomew, a cheerful and most intelligent old man, when she was joined by Agatha, who proposed driving her out in a pony chaise through Goathurst Wood, observing that it afforded some very pretty scenery, though nothing of so grand a nature as the view from the Druid's seat.
A wood is always delightful,” cried Edith _" and doubly so to me whose customary rides
have been either to Burton or Sedgemoor, which my father thinks a much finer country for horse exercise than plantations and enclosures. To my taste, however, trees and shade and leafy recesses are a thousand times more charming. In the solitude of an open country there is something dreary and oppressive; in that of woods there is a soothing charm which seems to combine the pleasures both of companionship and loneliness.”
“Such too was Shakspeare's opinion,” said Father Bartholomew " when he makes the woodland hermit exclaim
• This our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.'
Go then, my daughters, and if such thoughts possess you while wandering beneath the Gothic arches of the boughs, Heaven's own architecture, you will be as holily employed, and as proudly bestowed, as if you were praying within the noblest cathedral ever reared by mortal hands."
The friends were presently equipped and seated in their little vehicle, when Agatha, to whom every road and green alley of the wood was familiar, drove to its most picturesque spots, often stopping to admire a particular tree, or even an old stump, or tawny flowertufted bank, objects which, however uninteresting to the general observer, always possess a new charm for the landscape-painter.
“ Excuse my loitering in this manner,” she exclaimed “I am seeking materials for the foreground of my next painting, and you must not wonder therefore if dock leaves and fern, and weeds and stones, and old stumps find a value in my eyes though they may possess none in yours.”
“ If mine tell you so, they do not express the truth,” said Edith; " for though I am not an artist myself, I have a keen enjoyment of all these minute varieties of tint and form to which you allude; not less than of the more conspicuous beauties of this charming wood. Linger, therefore, as long and as often as you please,
and do not fear that I shall become tired of the scenery, any more than of my companion.”
“We are lucky, Edith, in the weather, which is perhaps more favourable to our purpose than if it were finer. The shadows of these heavy clouds heighten the brilliancy of the partial gleams of sunshine, thus throwing back the distances, and giving variety, expansion, and mellowness to the landscape, whenever the openings of the trees afford us a peep of it. Here we shall lose it, for the wood closes in upon us, compensating us, however, by its own beauties, for those which it shuts out."
“ I suspect, nevertheless, continued Agatha, as the road presently emerged into an open glade—“ that I should have done well to recollect the old proverb which warns us against crowing till we are out of the wood; for by the lurid and lowering clouds, by these whirling eddies of dust, and the squally gusts that wrestle angrily with the trees, I fear we are about to encounter a storm—the wind has suddenly changed. See! the clouds are driving towards
each other, and we shall do well to seek instant shelter. You are not afraid of thunder, I
“ Not in the least, and yet I am so far corporeally affected by it that it generally occasions a violent palpitation of my heart. My only apprehensions would be for the steadiness of
your pony, of which if there be any doubt, it might be prudent to dismount.”
“Oh! I will answer for my four-footed friend, who is as quiet as a lamb. Ha! the big drops are pattering fast around us, we must fly to some covert. This oak is hardly leafy and tufted enough for our purpose ; yonder chesnut offers us a better canopy. Wrap this cloak around you, dearest Edith ; you are a fragile flower and require protection ; I am of tougher texture, and so accustomed to exposure that I can almost defy the elements.”
Scarcely had they reached the shelter of the out-spreading branches, when a vivid flash of lightning irradiated the dark glades and vistas of the wood; a crash of thunder burst over-head,